…after watching the news last night and all anybody, including the principal, cares about is the stupid duck plot that may or may not be a real thing instead of the act that did take place for sure that needs to be dealt with, and students posting inaccurate information on my husband’s facebook page, and I am tired of re-telling the story to everyone, and the realization that some people are just plain misinformed, I thought it would be best to keep a daily journal………
Tuesday September 18
Our daughter came home from school and announced that she had been chosen to be in the sophomore homecoming court. As we congratulated her my husband and I both looked at each other and knew that we were both thinking the same thing. How did this happen? We knew over the last 8 years that we have lived in this school district that we had never seen any of the children she went to school with interact with her in any way. No one had ever called, came to visit, invited her to a birthday party or even talked to her at the school functions we had attended to watch her at band camp or choir concerts, etc. One might think this is a horrible life for a kid but that was not the case for our child. She has ADHD and social disorder that makes her uncomfortable and awkward participating in basic social graces and early on we realized that making her engage in these normal rituals made her unhappy so we stopped trying to make her be normal and we started letting her be happy. In her mind she feels like everyone is her friend and it is always sunny in her world, so as long as she was smiling and happy who were we to judge her and force her to try to be like others. After all, isn’t our goal as parents to raise happy, healthy, good kids that can transition that lifestyle into adulthood?
Wednesday September 19
When we had a little time to let the news soak in we started talking to our family to see if our initial reaction was unwarranted or did this mean we should initiate an investigation into where this idea came from. Was it a mistake and her name got accidently read when they meant to say it was another student with a similar name or had a group of people gotten together and decided to nominate this quiet little girl to go against the grain or the group had sinister intentions? We hoped that the last option was a ridiculous idea and maybe we were just cynical old people, not giving people the benefit of the doubt.
Thursday September 20
After another night of worry, we had enough of a gut feeling that we felt we must investigate. So members of our family, myself, and my husband started quietly calling and emailing people we know that have children at PHS to ask them what their kids had to say about the nomination of our daughter to homecoming court. Almost immediately the feedback was “Yes, the nomination was a joke but my kids says they were not involved in the voting.
Friday September 21
By this time our oldest daughter and family members were checking in with us and reporting the same comments from their friends. Our daughter came home from school this afternoon and told her sister “a girl stopped me in the hall today and told me that I was only nominated as a joke, what does that mean?” Her sister immediately called us and reported that our investigation was no longer a secret because she had heard it herself at school and now had doubts and questions of her own. Mainly, why would anyone do this to her? What had she done to deserve this?
Saturday September 22
On Saturday a family member was attending a school function and asked the PHS principal if he were aware of what we had found out? He told her that he and faculty he had spoken with, were suspicious at first too because he couldn’t even picture who this child was and he had to go look her up (presumably in her student file or a yearbook?) and throughout the week he had heard the rumors and suspicions but nothing concrete and without someone coming forward or solid proof, he would not act because he believed that speculation was not a valid reason to interfere. After all, she might just be able to make this a positive experience for herself, right?….Next, a family member continued her questioning by asking the sponsor (faculty member) in charge of voting what she thought. The sponsor responded pretty much as the principal had. She stated that our daughter had received a landslide voting win (it is estimated somewhere between 86-90 percent of the students voting for the sophomore court voted for our daughter)….by the time we got home that day we had also received an anonymous email through my husband’s website saying that they too believed it was a joke and wanted to let someone know. Suspicion and rumors might not be enough for others to act but this was our child, how could we NOT do something about this? We couldn’t just sit by and let her be the butt of the joke whether she fully understood what that meant or not. What if she figured it out during the ceremony and it devastated her in front of all those people and she actually broke down? That was not a scene we wanted to see happen.
Sunday September 22
After a sleepless night and much discussion we still had many questions. How could so many kids vote for her if they didn’t know her? Who would have started this and what would make such a huge number of kids jump on board to participate? How would a parent even be able to get those answers? It’s not like you can interrogate young kids randomly on the school parking lot right? We are crazy over our kids but not that crazy! And we had already heard the principal and sponsors idea to let the situation play out and NOT interfere. Again, speculation and hear say was not enough motivation for them to investigate but it certainly was for us. But how? A few hours later as my husband was checking his web site for the day he had received 5-6 more messages about the homecoming nominations (only one left a name on the contact form and that person pleaded with him to appreciate their willingness to speak up and please don’t involve them in this). 3 of those emails told similar stories about and extended plan involving duck issues. The others had stories about laughing and pointing during the ceremony. All different, but basically the same premise and all of the emails stated in one way or another that the secondary plots were probably, in their opinion, thought up after the nomination. That was the last straw for my husband. In a knee jerk reaction, with tears streaming down his face he posted on facebook that he had “Lost faith in the human race” and didn’t know how it could ever be restored. That broke my heart. I had only seen him sob uncontrollably like that before when he held our child one last time and he had to hand her away to be taken away to the funeral home. I knew that this was the time to act. We went back to facebook and composed a message with the gist of the situation hoping that someone would see it and help us find out more details or contact the principal and help us motivate him to delve into this nomination travesty and find out their mindset, and why our daughter was chosen, and better yet how so many voters (remember landslide win approx. 86-90 percent) could participate in being so mean. That is a lot of mean spirited people in this school’s population to make us think that there has been some misfire mentoring to this group of kids. In hindsight we look back at that first post and realize it was a little jumbled and confusing to read and our only excuse is that we were sleep deprived, distraught, angry, frustrated, and limited by the size of message on facebook to squeeze our story and heartbreak into one post. We apologize for the confusing nature of that post, we never meant to give out misinformation. Although it was true, the jumbled nature of our distraught post gave lots of room for misinterpretation….and we never expected the firestorm that followed. Again, we apologize to the faculty receiving disrespectful phone calls at PHS and the emails to the principal containing threats and expletives. That was not our intention. We just wanted people that thought we were right to show us support. We were so beaten at that point that we never really believed that people would even take notice or care, but we felt like we were getting relief by venting. So, after that we just let it go and decided to leave the house for the day with our family and try to take some time to try to get it off our minds. When we returned home about 4 hours later we checked my husband’s facebook page and turned our phones back on and that is when we saw hundreds of emails, posts, and messages from friends, acquaintances, and news media jockeying to break the story first and they were all saying we were absolutely justified in feeling frustrated. The general consensus was, that it should have never even gotten to that point. There were also more emails containing confirmation that the voting was indeed a joke and a few more scenarios regarding post nomination plots. Some were similar to the first round of emails, and some included other vague plot attempts to embarrass and harass our daughter. There was nothing more potentially disturbing than the duck plot but others were still leaving the possibility open that there was different harassment in the works. We barely had time to soak it all in, when a phone call finally came to us from the PHS principal at 6pm wanting us to meet him and some other faculty members at the high school for a meeting at 7pm. At the meeting, the superintendent arrived to meet us but told us that he would like to be excused from the initial meeting with faculty in order to offer us an opportunity to have an unbiased appeals process should we feel the need for one and that way he would be able to mediate that for us. So the meeting took place with the principal, a special education counselor, and the student council faculty advisor. As we explained how we got to the point of frustration that lead to us pleading with the public on social media for help, the three faculty members seemed genuinely upset by what had happened to our daughter and they admitted they had suspicions from the beginning, and had also heard the rumors about the voting plot only. But again, they stated that speculation has never been enough reason to involve a parent in a suspicious situation at their school. They did concede that for lots of reasons they would now contact parents before nominations would be announced in case parents would not be available to transport their child to all of the events or even be able to afford the cost of their child’s participation. I am glad they worked that out, but that still didn’t help us out with what to do with our child. The end result of the meeting was left with the principal promising us that he would get back with us with answers and a solution/action plan for the malicious voting debacle by the end of the school day on Monday if we would just hold off with anymore facebook posts and not talking to the media about our situation. We agreed to the terms because we felt he was sincere and it would bring swift end to the whole problem and that would be best for everyone involved.
Monday September 24
Our phones rang the night before till 4am and we finally turned the ringer off to get a few hours of sleep. We are still exhausted at this point. After the meeting the night before we are hopeful. The news media must be early risers because they were calling again at 8am jockeying for position to get the story first. Most of the television stations told us that they would only be able to hold off on airing the story till the afternoon and by then they would roll with it whether we participated or not. We had to tell them that we would not participate today as we had promised but tomorrow we could talk to them and by then we should have a solution and hopefully a happy ending to our story. They were frustrated, but most said they understood our position with the school. At 9am the principal called us to check on our daughter and ask if we had any more information for him. I thought, wait a minute, I was under the impression that he was going to start investigating now (even though he should have started last week when he had his first idea that something was wrong)? We had laid the ground work and knew from multiple sources (including him) that everyone knew the nomination was a joke so I couldn’t believe that he was still expecting us to do his work for him. I told him there was no further information I could give him at this time but I did want to warn him for trafficking sake with the children at school that all of the news stations had said they would definitely be at PHS by that afternoon and I was hoping if I warned him that he could prepare accordingly. He then told me that he was really hoping to put this off a few more days so he could get started investigating the situation but the news media probably wouldn’t let that happen. I was stunned! It was only 14 hours earlier that he asked me to promise not to talk to the news and he would have a solution for me by Monday afternoon. If he thought that wasn’t going to be possible then why did he make me promise that? The only reason I could come up with was to make sure that he got the upper hand with the media to make us look bad? At that point I considered our agreement broken. I called the news stations back and told them that we would meet them when they got to town because I wanted to make sure that our side of the story would be heard. One news reporter took lots of time and got the story pretty close to the truth, another reporter got about 50% right, and one reporter got the whole story mixed up! Geez Louise! How did that happen? Like there wasn’t enough confusion with the rambling posts we had made on my husband’s facebook and now one whole population watching that channel was misinformed as well! The principal called again around 5pm just as the news was coming on, and at the same time the automated voice reach message was calling from the high school to inform parents that something involving homecoming nominations had happened and they were investigating, so I was really trying to concentrate on 3 things at once, which was probably the reason for the conveniently timed calls in the first place. Confusion! But the principal called to tell me that he thinks he is narrowing in on who started the voting plot and now he is looking to find who would have actually thrown eggs in the parade so those few people could be punished and we could move on. I told him that the egg plot never happened and it might not even be true, and neither did the pointing and laughing at the coronation ceremony so how could he know who had those intentions and who was actually going to go through with those things if they were. You are never going to be able to prove that, so let’s just stick with the issue at hand that we know did happen. He said he wanted me to give him all of the contact information and names for the people that had confided information to us because that is where he wanted to start (again, I am supposed to do his work for him or else he calls me uncooperative!) I told him that I had no intention of involving innocent people in his witch hunt for one or two people. Those people were the good ones that confided in me and trusted me. He might not keep his word, but I certainly do! I did however, tell him that I would most certainly contact each one that I did have return contact info on and let them know that he would like to speak with them, but then he told me that I would never know the solution to any of this anyway and I might as well send my daughter back to school because he was going to find the individual who started this, punish them by the handbook policy and I would never know who or what that was. I told him that I have never, and would never ask for a child’s name or punishment. I thought we were working toward a solution to the sinister intentions behind the voting and teaching the children that it is wrong. I am not looking for vengeance, especially on the kids that MIGHT have thrown and egg or MIGHT have pointed and laughed, but rather a life lesson be given to these kids and having my daughter see that so that she knows that she is valuable and all of those students did not get away with hurting her and hopefully they will never do it again as a result. I am not interested in punishing one kid that said “hey, let’s do this!” because he certainly shouldn’t be held responsible for all those other kids that went along with it, and the ones that didn’t participate but knew that it was happening are just as guilty. The principal then stuns me by telling me that he will not be punishing the voters (that landslide 86ish%) because he believes it was only a couple kids that voted out of malice and all the others found out and secretly voted for our daughter for good reasons. Secretly! That’s what he said. I told him that I find it hard to believe that one of those “good” kids did not leak that new uplifting plot to a faculty member before the vote, and yet it still hadn’t came to light about this “good” plot till Monday morning after the viral internet post and the kids knew they were caught and came in telling you that? I am not that naïve. He told me that he heard what I just said but he disagrees. Then he asked if my daughter would be back at school on Tuesday. I told him, not if there was not a game plan laid in place for fixing the problem he has with the group of mean kids. He then tells me that he does not think he has a mean group and he has told me before that it was just a few individuals. Again, I told him my daughter would not be in on Tuesday and we will have to play it by ear after that. He told me he would mark her down as absent and I would be hearing from him tomorrow. Although I don’t know what for?
Tuesday September 25
I am awake at 3am finally realizing with the tone and hostility that we both had in our voices last night that the principal probably, really has no intention of working with me to find a solution to the huge problem that has developed at PHS as he is obviously in denial. I am at a crossroads and not sure what I should do next. Do I send my daughter back to school knowing that all those kids got away with the voting scam? Will she feel like I let down her cause? Should I send her to a new school? Do I move to a new district and take my 7 year old autistic child out of the only learning environment he has ever had and has always thrived in? Do I still care about who gets punished at the school, worried that a scapegoat will take the fall for the masses? Or do I let his/her mother worry about that? Who do I think I am to worry that all these kids are going down a wrong path? Am I the only one that cares? If they cancel homecoming and my daughter goes back to school at PHS will she be harassed? If they don’t cancel homecoming will the crazy people show up at the parade and ceremony as they are promising on the internet and picket the event or worse hurt a child? I really did feel like no one cared when we posted on facebook our initial frustrations…and I really did feel like I had to talk to the news media because the principal had broken my trust and the stories would air without us and might paint our family in a negative light. I am struggling at the moment, and may have the wrong perception about some things but I maintain that we are trying to do the right thing for our daughter and the other students. Even if you disagree with us, know that we really did think when we jumped in with both feet that we would be helping. I hope we are.